Planning Your Trip to the Pantanal - Information About the Pantanal Culture
Living in the immense area of Pantanal with its adversities, is the native man of the region: the pantaneiro. He is known as peao, integrated with everything around, he knows that all the actions of nature, inundations and dry season, are responsible for the richness and life of Pantanal. The area has been used for cattle farming for decades. Pantaneiro ‘cowboys’ and their cattle herds have a history of living in harmony with the Pantanal wildlife.
The long distances and the difficult access to other regions have made the pantaneiro man used to isolation and loneliness. Once in a while the pantaneiro´s solitude is broken when a group of pantaneiros get together to herd cattle, or when they participate of the traditional parties in the neighboring farms. Herding the cattle can make days turn into weeks as the men travel by horse, taking thousands of cattle to dry pastures so they can eat.
After leaving the animals by themselves for a few months, the peao brings them back to their original pastures or takes them to be sold in a nearby city. This kind of trip resembles American cowboys' journeys through the Middle West, but in this case, the travelers traverse a wetland area. In that isolated region the most usual means of transport is the pantaneiro horse, resistant to work inside the water, and crafts of varied sizes and types.
The people of the Pantanal preserve their culture and traditions not only through their work on the land but also in their traditional festivals and parties, where people dance to the sound of the violeiro (guitar player), who by the end of the party plays his sad songs. It is said, that because of his or her ability as a musician the devil is forbidden to touch the violeiro. One such traditional festival is the Festival of Sao Benedito, which takes place in Cuiabá.
A religious display that is Afro-Brazilian in origin; the festival of Sao Benedito takes place in June and is a tradition that has been kept alive by the African people who settled in Mato Grosso to work in the mines, on the farms, in factories and as domestic servants. The festival has taken place since 1718 at the time Cuiabá was founded, and is dedicated to the Afro-Brazilian Saint Benedito, patron of the city, featuring folkdances such as the siriri, the cururu, the congo, the boi-a-serra and the masked dance, in addition to the plentiful distribution of typical Cuiaban sweetmeats.
Fishing is also a big part of the culture here, as there is an abundance of fish in the rivers flowing through the Pantanal. The Pantanal has the second biggest variety of fresh water fish per square meter in the world. A lot of the cuisine in the region is based on fish from the rivers of this region. Fishing in the Pantanal basin is a major attraction and you can expect to catch native Brazilian species like the Dourado, catfish, Pintado, Pacu, Jaú, Piraputanga, Piabuçu, Curimbatá, Arraia (Freshwater Ray), Tucunaré, Surubim, Lambari, Jeripoca, Corimbatá, and Cascudo among others.
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